An Irish Chain Quilt – the perfect beginner’s quilt?

IMG_6409I enjoy sewing with others particularily in a team effort but don’t get many chances sadly. But a friend who had seen my quilts asked whether I taught patchwork classes. Cue hysterical laughter. I could teach every short cut going and how not to do it but the quilt police can rest easy, I’ve no plans to teach quilting. Anyway I offered to show her the ropes if she was happy to help me make a quilt for Grenfell.

I knew Kasia was going to be a very quick learner. She’s done some dressmaking in her past, enjoyed the sort of crafts like decoupage where dexterity is important and sure enough she got on famously. She was as satisfied as getting the reverse side neat as much as the front!!  Something that has eluded me

I’d got these fabrics to hand….

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Not frankly my colour way but I bought them for a young girl I know but who in the end wanted full on pink not this more variable colour range. I’ve always thought they’d make a gentle quilt for a young girl  or woman. I had fun thinking of a design that would be reasonably quick and give Kasia some broad experience. I decided on an Irish chain quilt as it’s a nine patch from a strip set so she got plenty of experience of sewing and cutting. Best of all by the end of a long afternoon we had a quilt top.

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Kasia’s a cat lover and they spent virtually all the time with her, supervising of course

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After the challenges and demands of my latest quilt, it was lovely to sit back and watch someone else sew with me as ironing and cutting fairy. It was also good to have another to help with basting and then the quilting. Again to keep it simple we or rather Kasia just did straight line quilting on the diagonal to emphasise the lattice effect.

I certainly needed a change of pace  and this simplest and quickest of designs is beautiful. Funnily enough after we made enough for the first two rows I just couldn’t see the diagonal  chains. But once together it looks lovely. This may be another scrap project for me as my neutral scrap jars are filled to overflowing.

Oh and the quilting world has another quilter. Kasia is a natural.

 

linking up to Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts and Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.

Finished……thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh

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Fresh off the sewing machine…

 

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After blocking and squashing

It is with great relief that I can at last say this quilt, due to be entered into the UK Festival of Quilts, is finished. It’s the first time I’ve made a quilt that will be judged.  For quilters for whom accuracy and precision are their normal way of working then I take my hat off to them, but for me quilting means less of an eye on perfection and more on the finished look.  If a point has gone astray or those blocks less than perfectly aligned c’est la vie. So I really had to up my game and my seam ripper has never been so busy!

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Many things made this more a slog than anticipated. Firstly I’m a selfish sewer, I sew what I fancy sewing so unless there is a deadline I sew what I want. So sewing stamina and focusing on one project went against the grain. And this is where the Duke of Edinburgh came in.  He set up (or let’s be realistic his staff) an award scheme many, many years ago where young people work to get an award by doing voluntary work, a sport, learning a skill and carrying out an expedition. It’s an excellent scheme and no 2 son was away on his expedition weekend which gave me a long block of time to work on it pretty much uninterrupted. It always surprises how much more time I’ve got to spare when I’m one child down particularly if, it has to be said, this child…. This is for the nicest reasons as he gets bored more easily and is often in the kitchen experimenting with recipes, but he’s less keen on clearing up the mess though!  So that gave me a huge spur to cracking on.

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I completely underestimated the amount of time the whole process would take. Normally I’m a quick sewer and make design decisions pretty much on the fly but this time everything took soooo much longer. So much time  checking and trimming blocks let alone making them. So much time agonising over colour choice and placement of blocks. I can’t tell you how much time I spent looking at my layout and being unhappy and then trying to think how to make it better. It’s an original improv design so despite a fairly restricted colour range the options are endless. And even at the final stages the quilting alone took the best part of two full days. And this was all against the context of leaving it too late. I have no excuse. The entry forms are issued early in the year but I wouldn’t commit. Then on the last day of submitting your entry form, indeed I think the last hour, an IG post by Abigail about there still being time got me entering online. So of course added to this was the march of time.

I had the idea and concept back in the Spring. As usual a whole bunch of ideas came together. I had a large empty space at the bottom of the second floor stairs to fill. I love the look of inset circles and had enjoyed making this quilt where the technique is explained in more detail in that post.  This blue quilt proved a very quick make (and has the wobbly circles and misaligned edges and seams to prove it!)

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I’d made a woven quilt earlier this year and the colours worked really well in the space which is in our hall and the decor extends up to the top floor so that was quite a straight forward choice.

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‘You know you’ve made a mistake here…..’

I’d wanted to explore a different layout, not just plain fabric in the circles  and went for this as my trial block. I used Helen’s of Archie the Wonder Dog  excellent tutorial to get the striped strip an even width.

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The quilt is called Division as represented by the stripe and reflects how divisive and personal our politics  has become.  This is meant to be an uplifting blog so no more on that suffice to say harmony hasn’t been achieved either side of the Pond.

Well slog away I did. Laundry got forgotten, domestic chaos ensued, cats sadly ignored and put behind closed doors, our take out meal to home made ratio dramatically rose, my Fitbit steps plummeted, other projects put on hold…. but eventually it’s done and I think I’m really quite happy with it. Is it perfection? Of course not!! Will it stand up to its peers and not look an embarrassment, I hope so.

The fabrics used were Art Gallery’s (AGF) solids Linen White and Honey.  These are silkier and finer than Kona or Bella Solids. The grey solid was Fog from the Cascade range of fabrics by Moda a long out of date print. But I liked the bluey grey.  The accent circle inserts were from Moda Chic Zen Modern Background Luster Metallic range, some AGF fabrics from April Rhodes’ gorgeous Observer range and some earlier AGF prints. The stripe is another AGF fabric Streakly from Pat Bravo’s Essential range  (not in this picture)

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Well I won’t bore you with the tens of photos I took of various layouts but in the end I settled for the asymmetric gold splash of colour across the quilt. Also I won’t bore you with the tedium of trying to make every cut and seam perfect. I failed of course. I tried hard to reduce the shadowing effect and in so doing this mishap happened. Horror!! Of course it meant well over an hour’s work to make another block and unpiece and repiece the top. Sigh…. an hour of my life I won’t get back….

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And then of course there was the scorched block….. more blocks to make to replace these.

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I agonised over the quilting. I can FMQ but my stitch length is variable and it’s certainly not a strength. The quilt is also quite busy and I wanted the quilting to complement the quilt not necessarily be a feature in itself.  So eventually went with simple ‘random’ straight lines but used a variety of colours. And there are over 200 quilting lines. The double layer of batting does give it a wonderful texture even if stitch length is well variable!!

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It is a bit wavy and before it’s labelled and packed off I may block it to see whether that helps.   I’d like to get some of those horizontal striped lines a bit more horizontal where the dense quilting has taken its toll.  (Update – I did block it by damping the quilt and doing as much tugging and pulling as I dared. I failed to stretch it using slim pins etc without damaging the fabric so decided to weight it under a load of heavy rugs. This worked like a dream.)  There were a few yet more ends to hide I noticed when taking its photo. And at least one final brush may not go amiss.

As I use this blog as an aide memoir for me should I ever go down this path again these are some tips  I must bear in mind

1. For heavens sake start early next time, if there’s a next time….

2. Get the right tools. Anything within reason to make the task easier. This circle True Cut  tool was an absolute boon. Beats using a teaplate with jam on the rim to make it move less  any day!

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3. Get organised.  So much time can be wasted just looking for things. I swear blind that seam rippers have invisibity cloaks at times! The plastic basket for fabrics and project specific items worked really well.

4. Write things down. I know you always think you will remember as it’s such an obvious number/process but time has repeatedly told me I for one don’t!! A sheet with measurements particularily for the tricky half circles was very helpful with my memory and where 1/4″ extra trimming is a disaster.

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5. Check every block before assembling the top. Trim where you need to neaten the seam etc. Remembering to ensure shadowing is minimised.

6. Remember it will take forever. So follow the above to help you keep on track.

7. When choosing fabrics try not as you did this time chose a solid that is an out of print colour/fabric. What you should have done is find a current solid from Kona or wherever that gave you the blue grey you wanted and then ordered twice what you think you needed. Similarily with prints, avoid where possible old prints which will prove hard to source particularly in the UK. So choosing Zen Chic metallic range was a good idea as it is still very available, but not so the older AGF prints although as it happens you had plenty of them so it all ended without tears. This time…..

8. Weighting a dampened quilt under a towel and heavy rugs worked really well.

What worked well that could be used in other quilts?

1. A simple zig zag round the quilt before adding binding worked well particularly with double thickness wadding. It is worth the effort

2. Leaving off the last lines of straight lines quilting at either edge until the quilt had been trimmed and zigged zagged round the edge meant the lines of quilting closest to the binding would be parallel.

If nothing else lessons have been well and truly learnt. Will I do it again? I really don’t know. I’m pleased I’ve had a go….it will be a quilt that will be seen daily and I hope enjoyed. If the judging comments are too damming I may just have to accept that I’m never going to attain or be prepared to put the effort in to attain that standard. We shall see and in the meantime I need to get my house back in one piece.

Linking up with a Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts.  

A wrap for Q2 Finish a Long and Q3 target

This was the montage of planned makes for Q2. As per usual I was too ambitious although to be fair quilts as yet undreamt of when I created this montage have been completed. IMG_6263Well 4 have been completed out of 8.

In order, the bag for the visitor from Chernobyl…

IMG_5900The medallion quilt…

IMG_5815The baby quilt…

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The rest mostly languished I’m afraid and only two reappear this quarter. So to cut to the chase this is my montage for FAL Q3.

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1. A quilt for the charity Siblings Together. These were extra blocks sent by bee members so enough  I think at a push, to make a second quilt

2. Another matching mini quilt made from my late husband’s ties. No urgency on this one so with August and holidays looming this probably won’t get done

3 Now this is urgent. Another quilt for Grenfell using blocks made by my bee mates although we have just overheard that so overwhelming has been the response from around the UK and across the world to this cause with over 1000 quilts gifted then they’ve put a hold on it

4. Again this must be finished by mid July as it is destined for the Festival of Quilts…..

5. With a bit of help from a friend who wants to learn patchwork I’m hoping we can crack through on this quilt. This was again destined for Grenfell but for the reasons above we may have to go for plan b.

6. I bought the divided pouch pattern from Noodlehead recently. I want to gift some nappies and baby stuff using this as the container. Baby arrived last week! And in fact I’ve got it made already.

With a fair wind I should be on track to do at least 4 out 6. But it will be front end loaded so July will be busy.

Baby Present – Divided Basket

 

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I’ve long admired the many baby shower gifts I’ve seen on blog land using Noodlehead’s (Anna Graham) Divided Basket pattern. As you can see it is a sturdy and spacious basket just perfect for holding baby paraphernalia.   With the  new arrival of a baby girl this seemed a perfect gift.

The great thing about doing a popular design is you can look at all the many examples and choose what you think will work best. I loved those with striped fabric  and those baskets with the pocket feature. As ever Anna’s pattern was a cinch to follow and a quick make. Admittedly the first one, what with the pattern cutting out etc, takes longer but the second would be even quicker. I’m trying to think of  a reason to make another…..

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When I do do another one it’s worth noting what I’d do differently.  In the main I’m happy with it but there are some tweaks. Interfacing is absolutely key with this design. The pattern instructions suggest two different types neither of which I had so I used Annie’s Soft and Stable interfacing following this excellent post my Mrs H, bag designer and maker extraordinaire.  This product is relatively  expensive at £16 per 1/2 yard but to be fair the interfacing element of this bag was probably only £3/4. It’s 4mm thick and is like a thin layer of foam covered with material. Whilst it certainly gives structure it’s bulky and I tried to cut away the seam allowance, which is 1/2″, but as you can see it didn’t always leave a neat finish. Must try harder harder next time!   I may try actually sewing on the pattern piece onto the fabric say at 3/4″ and baste it that way.

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The other much easier tweak is this time to follow the pattern and make the handles more stiff. I thought they would look better in a more relaxed pose. I was wrong.

The post by Mrs H does flag up for me the incomprehensible world of interfacing. I’ve used many types….some on their own, some in combination with others. I always seem to be searching for the holy grail! It doesn’t help that of course interfacing gives the article a certain feel which you can’t see in a picture. I think the answer is probably, as Mrs H has done, is do an example set of one pattern with different products and see which works best. I’m going to spend some time at the Festival of Quilts looking at the stands of the various  interfacing manufacturers. And I may order some of the Headliner fabric Mrs H talks about. It would be great to have interfacings that become my-go-to interfacings of choice as opposed to the rather hit and miss approach I take at the moment.

Linking up with Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts and Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts.

 

#Quilts for Grenfell

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I mentioned last time the call for quilts for those affected by the recent and very tragic Grenfell Tower disaster. Both Novenka Bex Priestly and the London Modern Quilt Guild are coordinating their own quilt drives. Both have very wisely avoided having one type of design so it’s had all of us quilters rummaging through our WIPs looking for those half finished projects to get dusted down and finished. The distribution date is in August so getting on with it is important. The response has been amazing one Quilters Guild on the small island of Jersey in the Channel Islands has produced over 40 quilts!!!!

Of course I should be finishing off the quilt for the Festival of Quilts which is on an equally tight time scale but I’ve done nearly all the blocks and have a vague sense of where I’m going with this improv quilt. And I needed a break.

This quilt WIP sprang to mind….

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Its using a lovely selection of Cotton and Steel fabrics of yesteryear. They always seem to blend together beautifully. Rather than using a solid white I’ve used a print which I think is quite effective.  I’m not really a solids girl I’m afraid. It also has the benefit of being on my FAL for this quarter. The original plan had been to gift it to the daughter of a friend of mine.  But that plan changed when Nikola made this beautiful quilt for her baby sister with a bit of help from me….

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…and so enthused was she that she wants to make her own for herself. So this quilt was a perfect choice for Grenfell. The blocks were all done as it had been my retreat project when I was at the Thread House retreat in January.  The drunkard blocks had gone  together well so I confess I didn’t even bother  to trim them. Personally this abandonment of normal practice was in rebellion for all the precision and tedium of the blocks for the show quilt… Mindyou, helped by the relatively loose weave of these Cotton and Steel fabrics they easily fitted together with a bit of a tug in places….

Our new kitten Felix is learning on the job and was so sweetly curled on the quilt while I was sewing on the binding. I had to harden my heart to shift him. Mind you his adventurous spirit means he rather unnervingly thinks the moving arm of the sewing machine is a play thing. I really don’t want a trip to the vet because I accidentally impaled his foot with a sewing needle.

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I was going for a random look to start with but as I was using a limited range of fabrics I thought the alternate look worked best.  By the way there’s a mistake in the quilt which I decided to leave.  If you like those sorts of puzzles as I do  then see if you can spot it.  Clue at the bottom of this post. The quilting is just my usual curvey swoops which I do free motion style. So quick and gives a nice all-over look.

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And the mistake? Here it is.

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I’ve plans for a couple more #quiltsforgrenfell firstly a bee quilt so that must get done and if there’s time another from stash.  These are some rather pretty pink child’s fabrics that could be made into something quite simple. Really hope I can stretch time but I have roped in another sewing helper now mum has gone back to London. So beware don’t express an interest or you will be kidnapped for sewing slavery!

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This is a FAL finish blogged here.

linking up with Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts

Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation, Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts and Anja quilts for TGIFF

Perspectives

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Unless you’ve been deliberating avoiding the news (and I wouldn’t blame you) here in the U.K. we’ve had a tough time. Three terror attacks since March resulting in the deaths of many innocent lives and last week a truly dreadful fire in a tower block in London with 79 deaths reported so far. This post by Kate of Fabrikated talks very movingly of this latest horror.

The political uncertainty caused by a snap election that didn’t go quite the way it was expected to (which seems to be the norm today) is just a passing side show.

Sometimes the cosy and gentle hobby of quilting doesn’t quite hit the mood. At the time of the Grenfell Tower disaster I was somewhat painstakingly doing the blocks for a show quilt. I’ve never done a quilt that will be properly judged so I was grappling with the tedium of accurate seams, proper right angles, directional fabric that goes the right way etc etc.    It’s not my usual modus operandi which is to be pretty accurate but  not to lose sleepover it.  So as it’s an original quilt (using someone else’s pattern is allowed under the rules of The Festival of Quilts in the U.K. compared to Quiltcon where originality is required) there was much agonising over colour choices, measurements, seams ……

 

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But when I saw the images of the fire quite frankly it all seemed so irrelevant.

What was relevant and quite amazing was the response within 24 hours of  Novenka Bex Priestley (IG name @mxrubyrouge) who put out on IG that she wanted to coordinate an effort to collect and make quilts. Unlike other similar quilt drives, the one for Manchester bomb victims or Pulse for example, she wisely hasn’t specified a quilt design banking on quilters having to hand partially made quilts or quilt tops that were almost ready to go. Clever lady as that’s exactly what has been flushed out. The response has been amazing. All sorts of different style quilts as well as fabric and batting gifted. It’s a huge undertaking as there were 120 families who lived in that block. Now this did provide a sewing focus for me.

Sue (IG @suepatches12) approached me as the Siblings Together Bee 2 organiser whether we as a bee could make a couple of quilts over and above our commitment to the wonderful cause of ST. So to cut to the chase blocks are coming in to make 2 quilts. The timescale is tight as quilts are going to be gifted early August. But all being well they will be finished in time.

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I even inveigled my lovely mum who is staying with us at the moment and who will be hitting her 10th decade later this year to help with some blocks. She is an accomplished dressmaker and knitter but doesn’t do as much as she has in the past. She wasn’t very impressed with my Pfaff I’m afraid. She is an Elna devotee. But with mum sewing and me pinning and ironing we got 8 blocks made in an evening.

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Our current heatwave – it is quite unusual for the UK to get temperatures around 30 degrees day after day – is making sewing less desirable in my hot stuffy sewing room. With two house cats and the house encased with scaffolding to work on the upper levels opening windows wide is difficult. Someone left a small top window open and one of my sons was somewhat surprised when in the upstairs bathroom, doing what you do in such rooms, heard a scuffling noise and suddenly both cats jumped back in obviously having gone for a jaunt round the outside of the house. My admiration for the many quilters in hot countries who don’t have aircon in their sewing rooms is greatly increased.

In this heat I so envy our cats who can spend their days like this…… but cooler weather is predicted and I’ve got sewing to do….

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Linking up with Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts 

The next generation – a baby quilt

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Now let me get this in very quickly, this is not my own work…..the young girl holding the quilt is the very proud maker of this beautiful quilt. Nikola is the daughter of a friend who is expecting her second child.  Helping this charming 10 year old and extremely quick learner to make something so special for her new baby sister was a delight. As she was given pretty much free rein on choice of fabric and design it was interesting to see her design choices.

Nikola wanted it to be pink but not too pink. The start point was choosing the design.  I pulled together on Pinterest a bunch of simple quilts, some with hsts, but all right angles etc. She flicked through those and chose a simple chequer board design. Then onto fabrics. Nikola wanted it patterned and scrappy as opposed to just a couple of colours/prints.  As with any project I start we looked at my pink scraps first and she picked the ones she liked and the onto to my stash.

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I did the cutting of the 6.5″ squares for obvious reasons but the rest was down to her.  She decided the layout and really took her time and carefully played with placement.

I showed her how a digital picture would help our sanity when it came to piecing it together and the black and white version to check on values.  Which incidentally she’d done so intuitively nothing needed moving. Then onto sewing.

This time round I did the pinning and Nikola the sewing. She did one practice seam and I could see straight away (bit of a pun there?) she was a natural and off she went needing very little assistance. Slow and steady was the motto. By the end of our first 4 hour session the top was in two halves. And by the end of our second 4 hour marathon we had a finished quilt. Nikola did all the sewing with the exception of the corners on the binding and the final stitch down of the binding. I think that was a remarkable achievement.

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I’ve sewed before with children. When I took delivery of my Pfaff Quilt Expression the younger children were keen to have a go. They became quite proficient particularily my youngest son.   They never had the stamina for making a quilt but a zipped pouch was made, a mug rug,  a cushion ….

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… and the crowning glory, a fabric ‘place of worship’.  It was one of those school projects that cause parents to deeply sigh and wonder why schools inflict these sorts of things on time starved families. I accept theoretically they are the responsibility of the child but at 11 you are really not going to pull this off without some help.  Having twins meant there were two to do and because I couldn’t bear the idea of two cardboard creations I suggested to my son he make a fabric church and with a couple of Pinterest designs to inspire and some help with the more tricky sewing he came up with this….

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But I have to say in their early attempts they  needed a lot of input and lots of fabric and stitching mishaps to sort out. Sadly they’ve no interest now but it may come back.

Here are a few tips and reminders for me to help with sewing with children…

1) Nikola found sewing on my sewing machine a dream compared to her child’s sewing machine. I’ve heard this before that children’s sewing machines while cheap are temperamental.  Whilst for obvious reasons parents don’t want to splash out on an expensive bit of kit that never gets used but  a cheap machine maybe a false economy. Personally I was relaxed about letting my children use my machine. There were a few ground rules aside from the obvious health and safety points, like no pulling on jammed fabric, using a slow speed and any problems to call me.  But in reality I never feared for my machine.

2) A simple design is a must, perhaps  embellished if necessary by all those pretty decorative stitches. Nikola had a remarkable span of attention and concentrated effort,  not so my twins, so quick projects or broken down into manageable chunks helped.

3) Being as unprescriptive  as possible by giving them a pretty free rein on design and fabrics seemed to work for me. I’d have gone with a pink binding but Nikola wanted one to match the grey polka backing. On reflection she made the right call.

4) Accepting that there will probably be fabric waste involved. There certainly wasn’t with Nikola but the twins’ efforts led to quite a lot of fabric going into the scrap bag to make  cushions for the dogs home….

5) Suspending your perfectionist tendencies. Not difficult for me as I’m so not into perfection but if you are you are going to have to grin and bear it. Redoing seams time and time again is not likely to end happily!

5) and the most contentious tip. Teach and help someone else’s child. I have a good friend who firmly believes we should all swap children and bring up each other’s  – not quite sure that would work in reality. But I’m quite sure I’m more patient with someone else’s child than my own!

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Next up is Nikola’s own quilt. She’s very keen and chosen the pattern, a sort of hst star burst and the colours.   I  just need the time to get her started. I’ve warned her it’s marathon  compared to a short sprint that was the baby quilt. Watch this space!!

Linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts , Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation and Amanda Jean are Crazy Mom 

This is a finish for FAL Q2 blogged here.

Distractions….

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Apparently a golden rule of blogging is to never apologise, for example for poor photos, for incomplete projects , for reduced blogging.  I was brought up differently … and whilst I’m not exactly apologising for a certain creative void I thought I’d explain some of my distractions.

But first one creative venture is this tote bag. I seem to live at the small parade of shops up the road in a vain attempt to keep up with the voracious appetites of my teens, well my boys at least. So I’m always looking for bags, not massive one, just something to bung a few bits and bobs in to complement the vast tonnage of groceries  that get delivered weekly from Tesco.

This was from the absolute bargain linen/cotton mix I got from The Fabric Guild for £10.

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I wanted some thing that was practical but with a bit of style and zips…. I’m always nervous of bags without an enclosed and secured pocket, too much to lose, not necessarily lots of money just the hassle of lost keys, cards etc etc. So there are two zips here and a clip.  I’ve got one of these clips in my riding jacket and a haversack I use for walking, it’s so reassuring to know that keys aren’t going to fall out accidentally.

 

I used Jen’s tote bag tutorial again.  I used it last for this bag I made for a child.

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It’s a great tutorial.  It gives you the basic dimensions but you can play your own tunes with the design within it. In fact I increased the dimensions as this needs to hold more and Jen was designing it for young girl.  Mindyou at 5′ 4″ tall I’m shorter than most young girls today!!! So to the boring bit in case I want to reproduce it. The cut width is 13″ and the bag length 28″ when assembled into one strip. I also increased the handles to 28″. I used my favourite stiffish interfacing even though it was a linen/cotton mix so already had more substance than plain cotton.  It has a layer of batting which gives it a nice heft. This combination was a good call as being bigger it would have more tendency to flop.

So to the distractions… well this monkey to start with.

 

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Felix arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’d forgotten how playful kittens are and how much attention they demand. I have sedentary teens helping out with the cuddling during half term holiday and at weekends but he’s definitely a fun time waster!

Our other cat, Skye, was not a happy bunny, literally or figuratively. She’d always lived with other cats so I was a bit surprised. When you introduce a new cat you are supposed to leave them in a secure place for a few days so they both get used to the smells of the other. My bedroom and bathroom are perfect for this. However Skye would hiss and snarl each time she walked past the closed door! And she is such a sweet natured cat I was really taken aback.

Suffice it to say the introduction was not a success. The only good thing that was that Skye didn’t actually go for Felix and he seemed unfazed by her unwelcoming behaviour. But this story has a happy ending as you can see…..

 

The next distraction was finishing some curtains. Oh how tedious curtain making is.  Having spent a fortune on curtains for our kitchen/diner pre cats only to have them ruined as they were used as indoor climbing trees ….

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…I’d bought some cheapish curtains for a large bay window but they’d got metal eyelets. These are in one way very easily adapted for a conventional curtain heading but it’s so awkward humping round all that fabric. Anyway I’d been promising to finish them and whilst they are not actually hanging up the sewing part is done. Well not the hems but they’ve got to hang first….. that’s my excuse.

And the other distraction has been the garden.  I’m afraid it’s been somewhat neglected for the last two or three years. OK it’s been weeded and lawns cut etc but no tlc. The fact that I bought my sewing machine about that long ago is absolutely connected!! So furniture needed painting, moss and weeds from grass eliminating, patios power washed and grouted, much cutting back of excess shrub growth with a little help from my tree man….. So the pictures below are not so much product placement adverts but a reminder to me what I used so I can top up and patch with the same products in the future. The generally good weather here in the U.K. has mostly made these tasks enjoyable.

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All this has meant that my attempts at getting blocks done for my show quilt well hasn’t happened…. I’m waiting for the urge.  Perhaps a rainy June would help.

Linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts 

 

 

Sunday Stash – The Fabric Guild

 

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One of my favourite places for quilt backings, those huge hunks of 4m/5yds essential to finishing off a quilt, is The Fabric Guild based in Leicester here in the UK.  Now I know those of you who in live in the US this won’t be of immediate interest but let this make you very grateful for your own wonderfully stocked quilt shops across the length and breadth of your country at prices that make us weep….  So here good quality quilting cotton is around £12-£14 per metre which is equivalent to around $15 per yard. But with the Fabric Guild being around  £4 – £10 pm you can see the attraction. Ok you have to be selective, not all fabric is equal if you know what I mean, but I’ve got some great branded quilting cottons for a fraction of the price over the years.

They claim that they are the largest quilt shop this side of the Atlantic. Now whilst that may be true in terms of bolts of cloth in practice they are not the brands that I would normally seek out so in that sense the choice is not extensive.   But on the basis that the fabric will be a quilt backing and a simple all over design is fine then it’s unusual if I can’t find something to stash away.

I normally order online and if I have one niggle they are  never very speedy. But they do open for a few hours each week to the public and as it’s only an hour or so away I thought  I would shop in person. They brand themselves as similar to an American warehouse club.  You are charged a one off membership fee of £5 (not for online sales) and then the shop is yours to rummage. I’ve been a couple of times but this was the first time to their new premises. And what an improvement. The old one was dark and warehouse like but seemed bigger. The new premises are lighter and more attractive. The only downside is it’s hard to find which is not helped by only having a small sign, and I’m talking no bigger than a propped up A3 poster in the foyer  so if you go take note of what the outside looks like  –  you will need it to find it!!! I think it maybe to do with the requirements of the trading estate they are on to deter traffic?  Anyway parking was fine when I went.

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They stock mostly cotton or poly cottons. Brands include Rose and Hubble, Makower some Stof,  Birch Organics and a small stock of Cotton and Steel. There are other brands  I didn’t recognise like Adlico anyone? But for me there was enough choice for picking up some backings for some quilts I’ve got planned for Siblings Together.  I was after plainish and masculine. The striped one has already been used in fact in this quilt.

 

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I also chose a number of fat quarters, mainly pastels as I always struggle to find these amongst my stash and at £1.75 per quarter I wasn’t going to complain.

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But the best purchase were these wonderful canvas linens from the Maker Maker line by  Sarah Golden for Andover. They are only fat eighths so that’s around  11″ by 21″ but with 9 coordinating  fabrics they can easily be combined.  This was priced at £15 but I was sold it for £10 as by then it was proving a largish order.  That’s customer service for you. The fabrics just took my fancy and will be perfect for bags and pouches and are already coordinated.

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The Fabric Guild, I will be back….

 

Linking up to Molli Sparkles Sunday Stash this week over with Alyce at Blossom Heart Quilts 

May’s surprise quilt and a bit about blogging….

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No not another reference to Theresa May and the UK’s snap general election but the fact that I’ve cracked on and got this  month’s bee quilt done for Siblings Together. Yes I do feel just a little smug!!

To some extent I  always feel I’ve cheated when I finish off a quilt made up of bee blocks. After all it isn’t all my own work so you get a very clear head start. And this one, when I kicked it off earlier this month, is made even easier by a great design by Trudi Wood from the magazine Quilt Now which has lots of negative space courtesy of a large chunk of plain fabric.  But what makes this quilt a bit special is the very speedy and prolific response from my lovely bee mates from the Siblings Together Bee 2.   I did hint that I’d try and get the quilt done for this year’s camps. That spurred them on. And there are a good few blocks left and more to come to make quilt two in due course.

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With great skill I managed to misplace the magazine so had to decide the measurements for the two large white sides on the fly. But it looks OK and I’m pretty sure the original quilt in the magazine was asymmetrical. I was going to check how Trudi had quilted it but decided to give it a simple design of echoing  the squares.   It has a nice jaunty but hopefully masculine backing fabric as this one is really being geared to older male siblings who go to the camps.  Certainly it got a very big thumbs up from no. 2 son who is 14 and hallelujah! I’ve persuaded him that this design is perfect for his new large size quilt.  He’d chosen another design but it was boringly dull and I’ve been putting it off for ages. So a win win all round even if after this quilt and the other made up with bee blocks there will be 3 of these in the end!!

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Whilst blogging about this quilt I remembered it’s my first anniversary of blogging around about now and having read a couple of posts on blogging which got my brain cells firing I thought I reflect back on why I blog, what blogs I like to read and what that means for this blog.

I am a joiner in. I’m not one that likes to sit on the sidelines nor particularly somebody who wants to take centre stage but being part of a group and participating and sharing is something I enjoy in the various aspects of my life. When I started out quilting in 2014 I found quilting blogs really helpful and inspirational. Did I like everything – absolutely not. But it gave me ideas, tutorials in abundance and lots of insight into how and why people create what they make. And being a joiner in I wanted to make a contribution but also for me blogging is a record of what I’ve made and learnt along the way. To that end my blogs are useful references for me and I go back to them from time to time to remember a measurement/technique etc.

Yvonne of Quilting Jet Girl did a very thoughtful piece on blogging recently. She is a prolific quilter , vastly talented and regularly blogs. She is what I would call a professional quilter/blogger in that she has sponsors and giveaways et cetera. Amongst the many excellent points she makes is that blogging in the area of quilting at least is gradually declining. Others have also noticed this and with the growth of Instagram and the very immediate connection with followers that that app gives, many are preferring to share that way. I had an IG account at the time I started my blog and still use it frequently but I do like reading blogs because Instagram can only go so far with information about the why’s and wherefores of what people make. I’m nosy I like to know the details.

I have noticed though over the last few months I’ve been a lot more discriminatory about what blogs I actually open up and read. If the picture is a work in progress with little text and not a design that appeals then I’m likely to pass on. There are bloggers where everything is awesome. Fantastic for them but that’s not my life. I like to read the ups and downs of crafting and how life’s highs and lows impact. I enjoy the personal elements, the realism and the working through of problems and acceptance that perfection is a bit of a myth. Learning for me is seeing mistakes first hand and then knowing with some confidence how to improve or correct it. If I can learn by others traveling that path first so much the better.

I’m also not likely to open up blogs that are particularily commercialised unless I’m looking for fabric or interested in that book or fabric range. And this is where I’m in the fortunate position of sewing for pleasure and not a job. I don’t need to make an income from it and if that were the case it would in fact hugely put me off creating. But there are bloggers for whom their blog is in effect a marketing tool and they are often very well written and interesting but when they tip over to being too commercialised then I’m not as interested. Getting that balance right must be really difficult but many do in addition to Yvonne above there are others like Jo Avery of My Bear paw and Rachel of A Stitch in Time.

There are blogs I definitely look out for. A couple are daily bloggers. Barbara of Cat Patches is one. I love cats and her take on her own cats just tickles me. I find her dry humour very funny and craft wise, although she has skills particularily hand sewing that I’m never going to have, she’s adventurous, inspirational and prolific. I’m currently enjoying a short virtual break with her and her husband as they travel in Nevada!

Another daily blogger is Bonnie Hunter. Now Bonnie as any US reader will know is very, very big in the quilting world she is a prolific and very talented designer and teacher of traditional scrappy quilts. OK you could never call me a traditional quilter with modern quilting being more me but her absolutely boundless energy is infectious.  She writes well and aspects of her life, like her new backwoods cabin are interesting (I quite fancy a log cabin bolt hole myself!!!). And although a supremely positive person keeps it real and shares the ups and downs of life.

Another blog I really enjoy but is totally different from the two above is Kate of Fabrikated. Kate is another prolific and talented sewist this time of beautifully styled and original but very wearable clothes (having an enviable figure helps!) and recently knitting. She writes very interesting discussion pieces usually centred on something she has made but not always.  As my fashion guru she is very engaging and informative  and her writing attracts some really interesting comments. In fact I often revisit her posts to read the many detailed and constructive comments which I don’t do with any other blog. The exception to that would be the occasional blog posts on more ‘out there’ bloggers such as Molli Sparkles. He is quite happy to rattle the cage and comments can get quite ansty. I love a bit of contentious passive aggressive commentary!! And the whole issue of gender, which is the subject of the post I’ve linked, in quilting is fascinating – one for another blog.

But what is interesting is some of my favourite bloggers make things that actually aren’t my thing. And yet their writing about the creative process, their lives and craft choices make me come back for more. I suppose this is like real life. I don’t expect my friends to like the same things I do or live their lives the way I live mine but our values and approach to life are the same which makes the connection.

There are of course some excellent bloggers out there who write and craft things that are more similar to what I make. Jayne of Twiggy and Opal and Debbie of A Quilters Table are two such examples out of many. Both are original and very talented quilters and are definite trend setters in modern quilting. I have shamelessly copied from them in both design and colours. They seem to have more hours in the day than me given what they produce alongside demanding family and work schedules. And of all the quilt newsletter type communications, in addition to their blogs, Debbie’s takes some beating.

So what does that mean for my blog? Well I won’t be aiming for encouraging passive aggressive comments you’ll be relieved to hear. And also for a start it’s never going to be a daily event. I enjoy writing but a daily journal has not been part of my habit. I tend to blog when there is something specific to show and try to weave in something more than just about that item. I will continue with that pattern. But my area expertise is still quite rudimentary and so aside from general comments I don’t have the expertise say of Kate who really does understand fashion and how to put colours and textures together. Mine are a bit more random I’m afraid. And sadly I don’t have the talent to be a trend setter!! That said I will aim to carry on blogging about what I’ve made and the lessons learnt along the way.

My blog I accept is not the most personal. There’s no picture of me for a start. Trust me that’s no loss but it’s a bit of a thing in this house that the children are banned from putting their picture on the Internet. Or at least that was the rule but now they are teenagers I’m pretty sure that rule has been ditched. But I know that they would be appalled if they saw pictures of themselves on my IG feed or blog and I wouldn’t do that without their permission. Okay I confess there maybe a picture of a sleeping child under a quilt but it’s not identifiable. I do put in the odd anecdote if it’s relevant because I think it connects with people and there is nothing new under the sun that we haven’t all had to face.

I’m also never going to seek sponsors or have sidebars with lots of buttons and links to other blogs and so forth. The fact that I have no idea how to link up a button has absolutely nothing to do with this design choice. My nose has just grown longer… but actually in truth I quite like the minimalist style of my blog even though it’s through ignorance not choice!

Thanks to everyone who has left a comment. Your encouragement, ideas and questions have been hugely enjoyable. I wish I were better at getting back to every one. But you know who you are.

So all in the plan is I shall carry on joining in and sharing what I’ve made and the ups and downs of life.  There will be the odd anecdote thrown in and more realism than perfection, in fact none of the latter, but hopefully it will hit the button and resonate with those who link up and read it.

 

linking up with Amanda Jean Crazy Mom Quilts and  Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation.